How to Add a Lightroom Preset

So, you’ve just downloaded some new Lightroom presets (hopefully including my free underwater photo presets), and now it’s time to install and start using them.

Remember that presets are designed for use on raw files (CR2 (Canon), NEF (Nikon), ARW (Sony), ORF (Olympus), RW2 (Panasonic)).

I like to think of these presets as a one-click method for turning a bland raw file (which is designed to be edited) into a custom .jpg file. Yes, we could just shoot .jpgs, but applying a preset to a RAW file allows us to build a custom .jpg in a format that allows us to continue editing the photos without degrading image quality (which would happen if editing a .jpg file).

Adding an underwater photo preset to your Lightroom catalog looks complicated, but it’s actually very quick. Below are instructions for importing and applying your underwater photo presets.

Note that these instructions are based on the Lightroom Classic subscription designed for desktop. The process will be different in Lightroom CC designed for mobile.

(Don’t have Lightroom? Check out Lightroom Classic in Adobe’s Photography Plan subscription)

Watch the video tutorial:

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How to Add Your Preset

How do I install a Lightroom preset? Follow these steps:

1)  Download your presets, then unzip the file by right clicking and selecting unzip (or double-click on Mac). Inside this unzipped folder, you’ll notice that the presets are .xmp files

IMPORTANT: Lightroom versions 7.3 and newer use .xmp file format. If you use an older version of Lightroom, you need to use .lrtemplate files. I include a link to download .lrt files as part of my underwater photo preset pack.

2)  Open Lightroom and navigate to the Develop module. Make sure your Presets panel is open in the left column.

3)  Right-click the + icon (next to the word ‘Presets’). Select Import Presets.

4) Navigate to the unzipped folder with the Underwater Photo Presets and click it once. Click the Import button in bottom right of the window.

5) Select the presets and click the Import button again. Now you’ll see the preset pack as a folder inside the Presets panel. Open that folder to see each preset.


lightroom presets panel with installed presets
My Free Lightroom presets installed successfully in the Presets panel.

How to Apply Your Lightroom Preset

In the Lightroom Develop module, select a photo you would like to start editing. In the left column, you’ll see the new Underwater Photo Presets folder in the Presets panel. Click to open the folder and you’ll see the macro, wide-angle and ambient light presets. Click any preset and you’ll notice that a number of global edits are applied to the raw file, resulting in a clearer, more vibrant image with more contrast.

I need to stress again, however, that these presets are designed to be a general starting point for ALL cameras (compact, mirrorless and DSLR), so you’ll likely want to customize each preset for your specific camera, lens and lighting setup. Learn how:

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Create Your Own Lightroom Develop Preset (article + video)

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10 Lightroom Tips for Underwater Photographers (article + video)

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Brent Durand

Professional writer and underwater photo instructor. Brent is an avid diver and surfer, and has led many intensive photo workshops around the world.